The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017 found more than 200 cases of "nightmare bacteria" that can resist most antibiotics, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The CDC has long warned about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the report shows that unusual resistance germs, which are resistant to all or most antibiotics tested and are uncommon or carry special resistance genes, are constantly developing and spreading.
According to the CDC, a nationwide lab found 1 in 4 germ samples had a gene that allowed them to spread their resistance to other germs.
One in 10 screening tests of patients were positive, meaning the unusual resistance may have spread to other patients and could have continued to spread if left undetected.
A top CDC official said the agency's containment strategy has helped slow the spread of antibiotic-resistance germs.
"Resistance genes with the capacity to turn regular germs into nightmare bacteria have been introduced into many states, but with an aggressive response, we've been able to stomp them out promptly," said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's principal deputy director.
Still, Schuchat said she was surprised by the spread of the germs.
"As fast as we have run to slow [antibiotic] resistance, some germs have outpaced us," Schuchat told reporters. "We've had some success, but it isn't enough to turn the tide. We need to do more and we need to do it faster and earlier."
More than 23,000 Americans die each year from infections caused by germs resistant to antibiotics, the CDC said.
The agency has developed a new system aimed at quickly identifying the superbugs, including helping staff at state health departments and lab facilities to test samples and isolate infected patients.
CDC noted that germs will continuously find ways to resist new and existing antibiotics, and "stopping new resistance from developing is not currently possible." The agency said it is working to keep resistance from spreading.